I just finished reading an article on Mashable called “A Look Back at the Last 5 Years in Blogging“. For the most part, I think this post gives a solid overview of these past and very formative years for the Internet. If you’ve just excaped from life under a rock, you might give it a read. Toward the end of the post, you can find the understatement, “tumblelogs have become extremely popular due to their ease of use.” The author interviewed some guy who is a digital strategist and he said “Blogging tools have made it easier for people to focus on content production rather than the often tedious process of content formatting. If anything is responsible for the popularity of blogging the steady improvement of the tools over the years has to be it,”
It’s that “ease of use” that will probably define the next five years of blogging. Twitter is easy to use. Tumblr is easy to use. Pinterest is easy to use. Facebook is easy to use. (All of these are blog-like, in one way or another.)
In a way, I love it all. There are all these new, fun, easy-to-use ways for pretty much anybody to share what they’ve got. They can share it with their friends, with an audience of millions, and also with the corporations who own these platforms! It’s that last bit that troubles me. Other people’s websites can get crappy or they can die. The aforementioned post about the last five years of blogging history begins with a mention of Technorati, which was once a huge part of blogging, but now Technorati is largely irrelevant to the blogosphere. Will twitter still be here in five years? Probably. Will it be bought out by CNN? God knows, CNN can’t seem to shut the hell up about what’s on Twitter, these days. Whether it’s CNN, Twitter, or not, the question is: will a company buy it and make it crappy? Yahoo bought Delicious and damn near ruined it. Just recently, Twitter bought Posterous. Will the average blogger care which company owns their blogging platform of choice, or whether it dies off? Does it really matter?
Well, I care, not super passionately, but I’m aware of it, anyway. Mostly, I like to have my stuff where I have a larger measure of control over it, which is why I have my own domain. I realize that, in order to have your own domain, you need to have a bit more technical know-how than the average internet user. And that brings me to two more things:
1. tumblr and the others are easier and more fun to use than wordpress.
2. Shouldn’t my own domain be able to better connect to all that other stuff out there?
These two complaints are mostly based on my own preferences, but I’m sharing them, in case there might be something out there that I’m missing.
First, it just doesn’t seem fair that so many other, closed platforms should be so much faster to innovate and so much more fun/easy to use. Although I have gone to the trouble of hosting my own site, and yes, I can and do spend lots of time tinkering with it, there are times when I want all the fuss to go away and to just rock out some new stuff on the web, you know? Many of the easier, non-hosted options I’m thinking of, they start with a simple question like “what’s on your mind” and/or some very simple buttons that say things like “video” “audio” “link” and so on. WordPress, which is my blogging software of choice, it hasn’t, until recently, offered options like that, and now they’re only half-baked. Can’t I have easy and simple posting options in addition to all the other power that WordPress offers me?
(I should mention that, yes, I am aware of, and I’m excited about, the new post formats for wordpress and I’ve seen the feature begin to creep its way into wordpress and I know about the WooTumblog plugin (I reluctantly use it despite its faults). These are all things that strive toward something like that simple set of buttons that let you choose things like “audio,” video” or “link” and to quickly and easily post them. I worry a little bit that this functionality will be implemented in much the way that tags were added to wordpress: everybody builds a million ways to do it and eventually the best one wins, which is fine, except that afterwards your data ends us scarred by leftover cruft from previous attempts at getting it right. This is because WordPress plugins are notoriously terrible at uninstalling themselves, in my experience. Remember “ultimate tag warrior” and all its bretheren? Then, there was tagging. Then, nothing had tags. Then, there were hashtags, instead. I digress.)
Second, if there’s so much fun to be had on so many other networks out there, and if there isn’t any sign of that fun stopping any time soon, then shouldn’t I be able to connect my self-hosted website, in an easy and fun manner to all the fun that’s out there? Well, actually, that’s a hell of a lot more easily said than done. At last count, there were something like 35 ways to stream your life, some of which are easier to use than others and some of which are self-hosted. Many of these rely on yet another website to use out there somewhere, which kinda defeats the purpose. Then again, maybe the idea that you can have “all your stuff all in one place” on the internet simply isn’t realistic, even if that “one place” is your very own domain.
In conclusion, I should say, simply, that it has been an incredible five years for blogging and the history of the internet. I only hope that the self-hosted website doesn’t lose out during the next five, and I think that ease-of-use and widespread compatibility are the two best ways to ensure that it doesn’t lose out.